Gathering each Sunday years ago in Wayland’s First Parish Unitarian Universalist church, choir members had in their midst Miphi Hall-Wunderlich, whose voice stayed true through the most challenging hymns.
“I was the one who sat right next to her,” said her longtime friend Patti Lis, who now lives in Natick. “I could always lean in and get the notes. It was a wonderful family feeling in the choir loft, and she was very instrumental in the personality and the core of the choir. She was a very good musician and elevated everyone’s standards.”
With a lovely alto voice and perfect pitch, Mrs. Hall-Wunderlich soloed as adeptly as she helped lead the choir, and she brought to all life’s encounters the kind of precision that made her a valued singer.
“She seemed to really take every relationship seriously with anyone she met, and would take the time to learn a little bit about them so that people became familiar to her, and she became familiar to them,” said her son Benjamin Cooley Hall of Providence. “She was very interested in having people feel heard and seen.”
Mrs. Hall-Wunderlich, a former English teacher and bank manager whose fine photographer’s eye found the notable in objects often unnoticed, died of lung cancer Oct. 24 in Elizabeth Evarts de Rham Hospice Home in Cambridge. She was 72 and had lived in Cambridge since 1994, after many years in Wayland.
“She was an interesting paradox of somebody who had a great deal of wisdom, who shared it not in an effusive way, but doled it out on an as-needed basis,” said her other son, Ayres Stiles-Hall of Concord. “She didn’t launch into lectures at the drop of a hat. She waited until the situation was appropriate and provided a sense of perspective.”
The exception was the labyrinth of language, through which she firmly guided family and friends.
‘She wanted to be out on her own, but she also wanted to continue to be a mom, because it was something that mattered to her.’
“I joke always that my sister and my father would kill me for the way I speak,” said her sister, Sarah Brooks of Weston. “Growing up it seemed as though one or the other was correcting our grammar all the while, so I say she was an English teacher from an early age.”
If Mrs. Hall-Wunderlich was meticulous about when to use who or whom, she was even stricter about how she acquitted herself in the world.
A lifelong pianist, she accompanied carols at her extended family’s Christmastime gathering. As a knowledgeable musician, “she knew what she could have been, and how she was,” Ayers said. “She would sort of grimace if she missed a fingering on a chord.”
Always a chronicler of family events, Mrs. Hall-Wunderlich turned her camera in recent years toward birds and wildlife she saw during travels around the world, and she created a greeting card business.
“My favorite works were when she let her own vision come through,” Benjamin said. “She would compose a picture or select a subject that most people wouldn’t see, like a door knocker or a statue in the garden at our house. I live here, and I didn’t even notice that very much. It really showed to me something I hadn’t seen.”
Miriam Phillips Brooks was the oldest of five children born to John G. Brooks II, a lawyer noted for championing legal services for the poor, and the former Miriam Littlefield, a longtime volunteer in museums and for legal aid causes.
Sharing first and middle names with her mother, Mrs. Hall-Wunderlich was known as Miphi since her childhood in Weston.
An accomplished equestrian as a girl, she once hitched her horse, Martini, to a sleigh on a day when storms left the roads with a packed snow surface after the plows passed.
“She and I went up to Weston Center to go shopping,” said her brother Chris Brooks of West Tisbury. “The people who were on the road were blown away by this sight out of the 1890s, this couple going to the supermarket in their sleigh.”
She went to Concord Academy and studied English at Radcliffe College, graduating in 1961. A year later, she graduated from Brown University with a master’s degree in teaching.
Her marriage to Ayres Hall, now of Shutesbury, ended in divorce.
Having taught high school English after college, she returned to work in the late 1970s as her sons were growing up.
“Her career choice was driven by the fact that there was a bank just barely 2 miles from our house that needed a teller,” her son Ayers said. “She was vastly overqualified, but the short commute allowed her to stay as much in our home as she could. She wanted to be out on her own, but she also wanted to continue to be a mom, because it was something that mattered to her.”
Rising quickly in banking, she was instrumental in creating the training department of Cambridge Trust Co., for which she was an assistant vice president, before retiring in 2001 as manager of the Concord branch.
While working in the bank’s Harvard Square offices, she met Tom Wunderlich. A couple for many years, they married in August 2011, about a month before she was diagnosed with cancer.
“She had on a business jacket and a high-necked lace collar. I just thought she was so beautiful and had such class,” he recalled of the moment they met. “I had told her a time or two that one of the things that made her so attractive was that she had real class. It was the kind of class that you just can’t buy.”
In addition to her husband, sons, sister, brother, and former husband, Mrs. Hall-Wunderlich leaves a stepson, Max Wunderlich of San Francisco; two other brothers, Dr. John Brooks III of Sunapee, N.H., and Dr. W. Blair Brooks of Norwich, Vt.; and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 8 in First Parish in Wayland. Burial will be private.
“She was an incredibly wonderful friend, but she didn’t have a big cadre of friends. She didn’t have a posse,” Lis said. “She had it all, but it was meted out very carefully. Miphi didn’t spill over; she wasn’t frivolous. She was lovely and true, but in an introverted way.”
After she and Mrs. Hall-Wunderlich left Wayland, “it was easy for us to pick up where we left off,” Lis said. “As our lives got complicated in different ways, we were able to get back together and resume the closeness. It was always right there. I just cared about her as a person. She was someone who was easy to love.”